Cebu Rep Rachel Marguerite del Mar has proposed to limit the venue of libel cases filed against a community or local journalist, publication or broadcast station.
Del Mar, in filing House Bill 139, said such cases should be filed with the regional trial court of the province or city where the principal office of the business of the accused journalist or publication is located.
At present, del Mar stated in her bill’s explanatory note, libel cases are filed in the area where the office of the complainant, if he or she is a public officer, is located.
“If he or she is a private person, the venue is his place of residence at the time of the commission of the offense,” she said.
“Thus, a newspaper or broadcast station in Aparri or Jolo, Cebu or Davao can be made to answer a complaint filed in Metro Manila where the complainant resides although the subject, the issue or the incident published which is the cause of action did not arise in Metro Manila,” she added.
She also pointed out that “the prevailing legal rules on venues place these community journalists and local broadcasters in a situation where they have to answer complaints or charges filed, rightly or wrongly, in remote or distant places, deliberately filed far away from their place of business or work.” “In this context, the element of oppression is there.”
She also cited the inconvenience, financial or otherwise, “is often more onerous and burdensome than the penalty or fine prescribed by the law.”
“This may even lead to a miscarriage of justice in cases where the accused or defendant fail to appear because of the distance and travel constraints,” Del Mar said.
HB 139 defines community or local journalist, publication or broadcast station as journalist or news medium that operates within a limited area of circulation or broadcast in a city, province or region.
A similar proposal had been filed in the past Congresses but did not prosper.